The timing was wrong.
That was the explanation offered by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau after he effectively killed a bill that would have brought much-needed oversight to Indiana’s nursing home industry.
Charbonneau, a Republican from Valparaiso, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Services and Providers. That committee had scheduled a hearing on Senate Bill 405, a measure that would have revealed for the first time exactly how much federal money county hospitals are siphoning off from their nursing homes and how much hospital executives have personally. benefited.
The bill would also have required the Indiana Department of Health to establish new quality measures for nursing homes, and it would have prohibited retaliation against whistleblowers for exposing wrongdoing in healthcare facilities. .
It was, in other words, exactly the kind of legislative reform that the proponents of reform demanded of the Legislative Assembly.
But just before the scheduled hearing, Charbonneau took the bill off the schedule.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Fady Qaddoura, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said he learned of the president’s decision just moments before the hearing.
“I’m disappointed it was taken off the schedule because it’s a critical issue,” he told The Indianapolis Star. “In my view, if it’s public funds, we should mandate public disclosure.”
An Indianapolis Star investigation found that at least $1 billion in federal funds had been diverted from Indiana nursing homes for other purposes, such as hospital construction projects. The newspaper found that millions more had been lost to fraud.
The money came from a Medicaid program intended to improve care for nursing home residents, but The Star found that county hospitals had exploited loose state and federal rules that allowed them to use much of the money. money to optimize the results of their hospitals.
Meanwhile, Indiana nursing homes are among the least staffed in the country, and Qaddoura pointed out that they are also among the best funded. It makes sense that a fiscally conservative state like Indiana insists on knowing where all that money is going.
Could the legislature’s inaction have something to do with the fact that the industry trade group, the Indiana Health Care Association, is among the top five lobbying spenders in the General Assembly? Surely it’s just a coincidence. So have the millions of dollars that nursing home interests have spent on political campaigns.
Charbonneau made a telling comment after killing Bill.
“What they’re doing is perfectly legal,” he told The Indianapolis Star.
This, of course, is exactly why proponents of reform are calling for a change in Indiana law.
When will the timing finally be right? Hoosiers are tired of waiting.